Turkey government steps back on controversial security bill

The Turkish government took an unexpected step back on its controversial homeland security bill, taking the legislation out of parliament and sending it back to a committee for further revision.

AFP| Updated: Mar 13, 2015, 19:01 PM IST

Ankara: The Turkish government took an unexpected step back on its controversial homeland security bill, taking the legislation out of parliament and sending it back to a committee for further revision.

The move appears to be a concession to the pro-Kurdish opposition in parliament to avoid damaging a fragile peace process with Kurdish rebels.

Over half the articles in the the 130-clause security bill have already been approved by parliament.

But Interior Minister Sebahattin Ozturk has asked for the remaining 63 articles in the bill to be sent to a parliamentary committee before further debate, Deputy Parliament Speaker Meral Aksener was quoted as saying late Thursday by the official Anatolia news agency.

The bill has proved to be one of Turkey`s most contentious pieces of legislation in recent years with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) staging all night sessions to push it through.

The meetings have repeatedly descended into punch-ups between lawmakers.

The AKP, co-founded by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has a majority in parliament allowing it to push legislation through.

Opponents fear that the bill, which the government says is necessary for the security of citizens during protests, will turn Turkey into a virtual police state with the police given sweeping new powers to arrest and even fire on protesters.

The opposition pro-Kurdish People`s Democratic Party (HDP) vehemently opposes the bill but is also negotiating with the government over an end to the three-decade armed separatist Kurdish insurgency.

Expectations are growing of a major breakthrough in the peace process ahead of the Kurdish New Year on March 21 and the government does not want to risk the fragile talks and may now water the bill down.

In landmark message last month, Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers` Party (PKK), urged the separatists to take a "historic" decision to lay down arms.

With the intensity of talks increasing, HDP lawmakers are expected to soon visit Ocalan on his prison island on the Sea of Marmara with an greatly expanded delegation.

HDP MPs Idris Baluken and Ceylan Bagriyanik are meanwhile holding talks in the Kandil Mountains area of northern Iraq where the PKK`s armed units are based, Turkish media said.

The secular opposition however expressed fury over how the bill was being handled with the deputy chief of the Republican People`s Party (CHP) Sezgin Tanrikulu accusing the government of "political trickery".

"Either withdraw the law or continue debate," said Otkay Vural of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The government drew up up the bill after deadly pro-Kurdish protests in October 2014 left dozens dead.